HEALTH bosses have served notice on a group providing community health service to people across north Essex leaving its 600 strong workforce “bitterly disappointed”.

Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE) was handed a seven year contract to help provide care closer to home in 2015.

It provides community nursing, falls prevention, audiology, cardiology and ophthalmology.

But the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group has decided to issue 12 months’ notice on the contract.

Frank Sims, chief executive of ACE, described the decision as “incredibly disappointing news” but said the team would help to ensure a “smooth transition” over the next year.

He said: “I am saddened to learn about the board’s decision. ACE has always been committed to ensuring people have had access to the best possible care across Colchester and Tendring.

“We will work with the CCG to support the smooth transition to new arrangements during the next 12 months and do everything we can to ensure our hard working staff are supported at this time.”

In a letter sent to its workforce Mr Sims said: “I want to pay tribute to all of ACE’s members and, of course, our wider workforce, for the extraordinary response to the Covid-19 crisis and for the magnificent way they have all gone about delivering care and kept the organisation functioning well during this unprecedented time.

He added: “The notice period is for 12 months. This gives commissioners plenty of time to complete their procurement of a new service provider and for ACE to be able to transfer our workforce effectively and ensure the safety of the patients they care for.

“This contract forms the majority of ACE’s income. It will therefore, hit our business extremely hard at a time when the economy is likely to face a major downturn. For ACE’s loyal and professional nurses, medics, therapists and, of course our support staff, this news has come as a shock and is bitterly disappointing.”

The CCG said the decision paves the way for it to support more joined up care between primary care, social care and community services, and acute hospital care.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of the CCG, said: “Over the past five years, staff at ACE have worked tirelessly to ensure local people and patients receive the care and treatment they need closer to their home.

“We are grateful to them for all of their hard work and we would like to assure their excellent staff that there will be a positive future for them locally.

“The CCG will continue to work closely with ACE to ensure there is a smooth transition to the new arrangements and we thank them for their professionalism.”

The ACE contract aimed to focus on the needs of patients and to offer treatment in, or near to, their homes instead of adding pressure to existing sites such as hospitals.